Credit: Rachal Duggan

Every night, Casey would lie in bed touching herself as she devised the next plot twist. She didn’t know which she liked better, concocting at night, sometimes for hours at a time, or writing it out the next day, a reward and consolation after PE. Whenever she started to feel weird or bad about it, she’d reach between the bed and the wall and retrieve the stolen copy of Flowers in the Attic that was wedged there, a reminder that everybody read books like this. Constantly. Sitting at McDonald’s. Wherever.

She had started writing a month ago in study hall, inspired by Amber and Blake, popular kids from one table over. Casey sometimes spent the entire period watching them. Blake would slide Amber a note, and her head would go down into her hands, her shoulders convulsing in silent laughter. Casey wondered what it would feel like to be made to laugh that hard. She picked up her pen and wrote what she imagined their whispered conversations to be. Those dialogues blossomed into what were now 20 blue-inked pages—an erotic fantasia of middle school romance starring most of the A-list and a few B-list popular people by name.


The eighth-grade girls were deep in a PE unit called Hurdles. It involved both actual hurdles and tires to be penetrated with a high-knee quickstep that aggressively favored the taller ones. Afterward, those who were most dexterous with curling irons emerged from the locker room with hair at full bounce. Casey was great at neither Hurdles nor hair. Study hall was right after, and she would suck on a long strand, still wet from the shower, while she wrote.

The night before, Casey had decided to write herself into the story. She couldn’t wait to start: The popular kids dare Casey, the quiet new girl, to demonstrate her best passionate kiss on Tyler Sizemann as a cruel joke. But guess what? Joke’s on them.

Behind her, a voice said, “Hey, I like your pornographic book. I bet everybody will.” All the sound in the locker room sucked itself down to a pinpoint. Casey froze, hunched forward in her unnecessary bra.

“You think I don’t see you staring at me in study hall like some pervert?” it said. When Casey turned to look, her assignment notebook shot into the air, dangling from Amber’s hand, a million miles up.

“Who should I show this to first? Mr. Neeley? Blake? My mom?” Amber asked. Casey considered jumping for it, a dog lurching for a treat she’d never get. She considered stabbing Amber in the stomach with a curling iron. When she finally spoke, the words came into her mouth from somewhere outside her body.

“It’s not finished,” said Casey. “Don’t you want to know what happens?”


Casey sat down in study hall and tore out the 20 pages she had written. She handed them to Amber and Blake, who sat beside her, reading. Casey found a blank page, pulled her hair back, and started to write.  v